The following introduction was published on August 19, 2013 on as part of a two-part blog post by Kim Saxe, Nueva's Director of Innovation Labs.  Click here to view the complete articles.  
Education Trends –

Empowering Students Through Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking

August 19, 2013
Students in The Nueva School's Intro to Entrepreneurship class Photo credit: Kim Saxe

Entrepreneurship in pre-collegiate schools is spreading like wildfire! In 2011, a venture capitalist parent and I decided to pilot an Intro to Entrepreneurship elective for our seventh and eighth graders at The Nueva School. We were stunned when 23 of the roughly 100 students in those grades signed up for the course. This past year, we actually had to turn away seven students who wanted to repeat the class. Clearly, we had hit a chord with today's youth.

In Nueva's Entrepreneurship Course, student teams are guided to create their own ventures. We encourage the students to imagine they are adults and "go big." Past teams have created ventures, such as emergency appendectomy kits for developing nations, soccer cleats that simulate barefoot running, and anti-procrastination homework solutions for students, to name but a few. They learn how to identify "pains" (needs), invent "delights" (solutions), collaborate, build a business model, create financials using Excel, write a business plan, and pitch their venture (either for profit or non-profit) to a panel of feedback-givers consisting of venture capitalists and social good backers.

Throughout the course, students utilize design thinking skills such as:

  • Observation
  • Deep interviewing
  • Synthesizing information into needs statements
  • Brainstorming
  • Active, deep testing of assumptions and ideas
  • Guest speakers and young alums from industry and social organizations visit and lead seminar-like discussions and/or case studies with the students on topics such as:

  • Branding
  • Handling failure
  • The importance of very deep understanding of potential customers
  • Locating and recruiting donors or finance ventures
  • two boys w/laptop
    Photo credit: Kim Saxe

    Students are supported as they wade into the real world, but not given the answers. In the end, they learn that they have the tools to deal with uncertainty and to translate ideas into real outcomes.

    Click here to visit to view the two-part series on Entrepreneurship and Design Engineering at Nueva.


    ernesto1Nueva Middle School students in grade 8 Spanish and the Jazz and Blues Elective were treated to a special visit from Cuban musician Ernesto Oviedo in March. Thanks to a collaboration between Spanish teacher Bibi Millet and Music teacher Jim Munzenrider -- who met Ernesto in Cuba last summer -- the Havana native spoke about the history of jazz and his life in Cuba (before and after the Revolution). Ernesto and the students also sang and played music together.

    Ernesto's visit to Nueva was part of his first trip to the United States! He spoke to the classes in Spanish, and Jim's longtime friend and Cuba-travel companion Eddie Fernandez translated for the students in the Jazz and Blues elective. The Spanish-class students used their language skills to understand Ernesto and asked questions in Spanish, including:

    • Did the Cuban Revolution affect the Santeria religion?
    • How many Cubans follow the Santeria religion?
    • How does Cuba differ from the United States?

    The special class culminated in song and music. Ernesto sung a song with roots in the Santeria religion, a chant to the deity Ochún. Students also played drums and spontaneously sang Guantanamera while Ernesto played the maracas. The morning was capped with a student sharing a bit of the American culture by singing Respect. You can see a video of Ernesto performing here.


    Cynthia is involved with high school placement counseling and Humanities curriculum development, and teaches Humanities.

    What are you currently teaching and doing at Nueva?

    This year, our first semester curriculum for seventh and eighth grade included something called from “Space to Place.” It asks, “How does a place like Manhattan go from an overgrown, swampy, hilly place with relatively few inhabitants to Manhattan as we know it?” There are now eleven identified megacities (for example, Mexico City, Shanghai, and Tokyo) and we ask, “Why are these the megacities?”

    I developed a curriculum called “The Cultural Identity of a City.” Students first learn what “cultural identity” means — that it’s anthropological, it’s sociological, and there’s a lot of geography involved. We ask, “How does geography affect history?” Then students do a research project based on a place of their choice. If studying Japanese, they might focus on Kyoto in the tenth century, or Granada in the twelfth century for Spanish, or fifthteenth-century Beijing for Mandarin.

    Laurel2This spring, eighth grader Laurel enlivened a Burlingame preschool with a cheerful mural she designed and painted for her Recital Project. Her bright mural adorns the Village Park Preschool, a location she selected because she wanted people all of ages in her community to enjoy her art.

    "I thought with the addition of my artwork, the preschool and playground would become more lively and fun for the children mainly, but everyone else too," Laurel said.

    The entire project (including finding a wall to paint, getting permission, creating a design, and enlisting fellow students to help paint) extended from October through March. Painting the mural took about two months with the help of some Nueva students. Because the City of Burlingame owns the preschool, Laurel had to obtain official permission from the city. To do so, she submitted an application for public art, and presented to both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Burlingame City Council.

    tuvya2How it Started
    Tuvya's fascination with geography began when he was four, and was given a globe by his grandmother. Then, when Tuvya was in first grade, teacher David Louis, parent of one of Tuvya's classmates, mentioned to Stephen Lessard, who ran the school Geo Bees, that Tuvya loved geography. Stephen invited Tuvya up to watch the Middle Schoolers compete, and he was hooked. His mom said, "Stephen has been a great mentor to Tuvya in terms of making geography accessible in a way that no one else could -- making opportunities for him and not worrying about Tuvya being too young."




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